Friday, June 19 will be an exciting day for Colorado Family Leaders from across the state graduating from the Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI), a first-of-its-kind non-partisan family civics program built on a national model that started in Connecticut. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the afternoon celebration at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora next month.
The 120 graduates of the 2015 FLTI have completed a rigorous 20-week curriculum, and each has begun implementation of an individual community service project they created. Housed in our state at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), this program is designed to bolster family involvement and leadership skills. The cornerstones of the program are respect, validation, and a belief that when the tools of democracy are understood, the public will become active participants in their own communities and neighborhoods.
Interviewed today, Eileen Forlenza, Director of the Colorado FLTI and Family and Community Engagement Specialist of the Children, Youth and Families Branch of CDPHE, said,
“Families who are engaged in their community bring a sense of belonging. Families are the very thread of communities, creating a tapestry that is colorful, strong and purposeful. FLTI gives families the tools to get involved and the confidence to know that it matters. The FLTI class from the Arapahoe/Douglas area is phenomenal – comprised of men, women and young adults who are now poised to make a difference in their communities – on behalf of their own family as well as for the constituency of families broadly. A powerful collection of individuals, the Arapahoe/Douglas class has bonded as leaders and will indeed go on to make great contributions. It never ceases to amaze me how ‘ordinary’ people and make an extraordinary difference when they are given the tools of democracy.”
Each FLTI cohort, including mine, benefits from vibrant community sponsors such as The Arc of Arapahoe-Douglas Counties which provided free space for the Arapahoe-Douglas Counties 2015 class. From this one cohort alone, 19 family leaders will graduate on June 19.
The FLTI curriculum is based on the evidence-based curriculum copyrighted by the Connecticut Commission on Children known as the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) and is offered in Colorado through an inter-state partnership between the CDPHE and the Connecticut Commission on Children, and with the support of several sponsors including Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado Department of Human Services and The Colorado Health Foundation. This proven curriculum includes four components: an initial retreat, two 10-week sessions that focus on knowledge about the change process, skill building, and tools of civic engagement; and a community project. Family supports are provided free-of-charge including child care and meals. Each class mentors the next class, creating a pyramid effect of community caring and a developing coalition of families. The classes are evaluated by families for both short and long-term outcomes.
Family participants represent the demographics of the State of Colorado. Their ages span from teen parents to grandparents raising grandchildren. They are single parents, stepparents, foster and adoptive parents, and others concerned about improving systems for children. Classes are comprised of 20-25 parents. There are occasional regional symposiums.
As Ann Schimke of Chalkbeat Colorado reported on May 19, 2015, in her article titled, “It’s not high school civics, but parents (and teens) learn the ropes of public policy,”
“Nate Donovan’s idea was simple: Teach school bus drivers and aides basic Spanish phrases to help them better communicate with Spanish-speaking students and families.
He called the project, ‘School Bus Drivers Habla Espanol.’
The Fort Collins resident, a school bus driver himself, presented the idea to three-dozen adults and teenagers gathered in a Loveland 4H meeting room one Thursday night last month.”
The community projects of the graduates of my cohort (Arapahoe-Douglas counties) included important topics that address:
- Wellness projects that focus on teenagers and even teachers in our public schools
- Teen Moms becoming community leaders
- Professional development for early childhood educators
- Affordable housing resources for low-income families in Aurora
- From Disability to mentoring This-Ability, one community mentor with different abilities working in the arts
- Depression online support community project
Some of the world’s most influential people started as “regular,” according to the FLTI program. FLTI every year embraces an inclusive approach and asks all Coloradans, not just parents, to consider some of the questions:
- Has there ever been something that you wanted to change in your neighborhood or school that frustrated you because you did not feel like you could?
- Would you like to meet people like the Mayor of Denver, City Council members or business and civic leaders who might be willing to help you achieve your dreams of change?
- Have you ever visited the State Capitol and gotten the chance to talk to the people who are making decisions and laws for you?
- Do you consider yourself a leader?
Today FLTI is offered in several regions across the state, including Denver, Arapahoe-Douglas, Adams, Lake, Larimer, Mesa, Prowers and Dolores-Montezuma counties. If you don’t see an FLTI program yet in your community, you can even apply to start one in your county. To see the eight things you will need to start an FLTI program in your community, click here.
The next round of classes will start in January 2016. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and interviews of applicants take place this November. To learn more about the FLTI program, visit their website.